Outdated chart, poor navigation caused bulker grounding, TSB says

Ineffective visual navigation and using an outdated electronic chart led to the grounding of a Canadian bulk carrier, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said. 

The 736-foot Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) ship Atlantic Erie got stuck at Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec, on Jan. 11, 2015. The vessel was outbound from the rock salt mine at Mines Seleine when it grounded while navigating a narrow channel with limited space to maneuver. 

While taking on a load of salt rock at the Mines Seleine dock, the vessel was shifted numerous times to allow loading. The engine, thruster and a tug were used to keep the vessel alongside in a strong westerly wind. The master was required on the bridge during loading and throughout the night to keep the vessel alongside the dock, the TSB said in a report. 

After loading was completed, the vessel departed at 1135. The investigators found that the master planned to position Atlantic Erie along the starboard side of the channel and initiate a turn once the vessel was approximately 1.5 ship lengths, or about 1,100 feet, from buoys YC9 and YC10. The master was navigating visually, relying solely on the buoy positions, and was using the electronic chart precise integrated navigation system (ECPINS), which was displaying an outdated chart, to verify distances to alteration points.

“On approach to the turn, the strong wind and cross current were setting the buoys to the east, giving the master the impression that the vessel was close to the starboard side of the channel when it was in fact near the center,” the report stated. “The outdated ECPINS chart likely corroborated the master’s belief that the vessel was on the starboard side of the channel because it no longer depicted the channel accurately and therefore showed the vessel on the starboard side, rather than near the center where it actually was.”

The outdated ECPINS chart was displaying buoys YC9 and YC10 as being 410 feet farther south-southwest along the course line than their actual location in the channel. By using the buoy positions indicated on the ECPINS to verify the wheel-over position, the TSB said the master likely initiated the turn when the vessel was only 700 feet, or 0.9 ship lengths, from the actual buoy positions. That was later than intended.

“The bridge team was not using all available bridge resources to monitor the vessel’s position in the channel and lost situational awareness,” the report continued. “Because the turn was initiated when the vessel was in the center of the channel and further south than intended, there was not enough sea room to overcome the environmental conditions and complete the maneuver with the helm applied. However, the bridge team perceived the turn to be proceeding as intended while the Atlantic Erie crossed over to the port side of the channel and ran aground.” 

Atlantic Erie was partially off-loaded, deballasted and refloated with the assistance of tugs on Jan. 14. There were no injuries or pollution, but the vessel sustained damage.

The investigators determined that by using buoys, which were being set off their charted positions by the prevailing environmental conditions, as the primary method for navigating, the bridge team lost awareness of the vessel’s actual position within the channel.

In addition, the TSB noted that using an outdated electronic chart, which no longer displayed the channel or buoy positions accurately to verify the wheel-over position, likely led the master to initiate the turn later than intended.

“The bridge team did not use all available navigational equipment to verify and monitor the vessel’s position, limiting their ability to identify human or equipment errors,” the report stated. “Deviations from the intended passage planning procedures set out in the safety management system resulted in the bridge team circumventing a number of safeguards in place to prevent navigational errors.”

The TSB wrote that “if established visual aids to navigation are not used and other fixed visual cues are not identified before the passage, there is a risk of ineffective visual navigation leading to the loss of situational awareness.”

Although the master had accrued a level of fatigue in the night preceding the occurrence, the TSB could not determine whether the master’s level of fatigue played a role in the occurrence.

Following the occurrence, CSL provided the entire fleet with CDs containing charts and sent detailed instructions requiring masters and navigation officers to completely delete all existing charts on the ECPINS and to install the charts provided. 

Brigitte Hebert, director of communications for CSL, told Professional Mariner that CSL had the opportunity to comment and make amendments on the draft report. 

“Our comments and amendments were accepted and incorporated into the final report,” she said. “We are satisfied and have nothing more to add.”

By Professional Mariner Staff